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The Genesis and Ethos of the Market

Pabst, Adrian (2013) The Genesis and Ethos of the Market. Review of: The Genesis and Ethos of the Market by Bruni, Luigino. Economics and Philosophy, 29 (3). pp. 430-437. ISSN 0266-2671. (doi:10.1017/S0266267113000333) (KAR id:37696)


Both modern political economy and capitalism rest on the separation of economics from ethics, which in turn can be traced to a number of shifts within philosophy and theology – notably the move away from practices of reciprocity and the common good towards the sole pursuit of individual freedom and self-interest. In his latest book, Luigino Bruni provides a compelling critique of capitalist markets and an alternative vision that fuses Aristotelian-Thomist virtue ethics with the Renaissance and Neapolitan Enlightenment tradition of ‘civil economy’.

The book develops three broad yet closely intertwined theses. First, that Greco-Roman Antiquity and the Christian Middle Ages invented models of civil life that transcended tribalism and political absolutism but produced sacral communities wherein the power and privilege of the ‘few’ denied freedom and equality to the ‘many’. Second, that modernity inaugurated the primacy of free and equal individuals over communities but that it undermined and destroyed the social bonds on which societies ultimately depend. Just as in Antiquity and the Middle Ages we had communities without individuals, so in the modern era we have individuals without communities.

Beyond these two similarly undesirable conditions, Bruni proposes the ‘civil economy’ model as the most radical alternative – the book’s third and most important thesis. Accordingly, the ‘civil economy’ alternative combines the relationality and sociability of all human beings with the flourishing of each and everyone by fusing self-interest with wider social benefit. Crucially, the ties of public faith (fides) and friendship (philia) can overcome the false divide between egoism and altruism in the direction of a moral market that is governed not just by the pursuit of profit but also by the practice of virtue.

Item Type: Review
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S0266267113000333
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
H Social Sciences > HB Economic Theory
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Depositing User: Adrian Pabst
Date Deposited: 26 Dec 2013 15:59 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Nov 2021 10:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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